27 November 2000. Cape May, New Jersey. America.
After a day of R&R in Cape May, Maks met with Captain Resper.
The DIA handler told him, “I’ve got fuel requisition authority now.” He gave Maks an envelope of milbucks, reimbursing the last fuel purchase, and Maks signed a receipt. “From here on out, see me for fuel disbursements. Continue documenting your travel. The base command have had problems with fuel being sold on the black market, so your requisitions will be scrutinized.”
Resper continued, “If your scouting will take you to Fort Dix or Tom’s River, get a signed requisition form from me, and you can top off your fuel tanks there.”
“Colonel, you anticipated our next objective when you remarked on Atlantic City in your report. It’s time to clear that rat nest.
“But first we need intel, from the inside.
“We know that two gangs run the place: The gang led by ‘The Indian’ and another called ‘Those Punks’… Hey, I didn’t name them.”
“Think you can get in there?
“I’d like an assessment of their defenses, outposts, hardpoints, and fallback positions. Are they gathered, or dispersed? What buildings do they frequent most? What is their source of food and water? Command structures? Do they have heavy weapons? I’ll need daytime and nighttime observations. And anything else that catches your notice.”
They are very anti-government, specifically anti-military government. So your usual cover as census workers won’t fly. They’ll be on the lookout for anybody associated with the military.”
Maks planned to take his whole team into the vicinity of the post-apocalyptic casino haven, but only himself and Wojciech [“Voy-check”] would be scouting inside the city. He had a notion to pass the two of them as barely-English-speaking Poles, but wasn’t sure how to sell it.
Resper mentioned that Warsaw Pact POWs were interned in the USA during the war. Maks had his cover: Escaped prisoners. Hopefully that would satisfy the denizens looking out for MilGov spies.
Resper had Maks sign for a 35mm camera, telephoto lens, wide angle lens, and 3 rolls of film (24 exposures each). Plus he asked for, and got an 8-pack of instant film for his Polaroid camera.
They’d wear dirty civilian clothes, and the two of them stopped showering. Maks chose an Uzi and a .380 pistol for himself. Uzis were not unusual in the area, looted from stocks of a pre-war civilian manufacturer.
Wojciech was armed with a semi-auto shotgun and a .357 Magnum revolver. The ammo for the revolver was in short supply [poor equipment availability roll, so only two cylinders of bullets], so Wojciech had a box of fifty .38 Special cartridges he could use in a pinch.
They packed everything in beat-up civilian day packs
MilGov had implemented a generous gun buyback program in New Jersey, which helped arm them, and also vacuumed up the gun supply in the region. Maks knew that being well-kitted with military weapons could potentially blow their cover.
Resper was also able to secure 40 liters of precious gasoline for the team, which Maks stored in plastic containers.
Maks’ team went north in their boat, this time outside the waterway in the open ocean. The weather was breezy, overcast, and cool, but the water wasn’t too choppy.
The trip was uneventful, only encountering a fishing sailboat that avoided a powerboat filled with armed men.
At Atlantic City, the party made their camp at a pre-war boat storage facility adjacent to the water and swamp. Maks and Wojciech went on foot after dark down the Atlantic City Expressway. They encountered some rough-looking civilians, who failed to notice them as they passed.
At the bridge, Maks and Wojciech cached their night vision gear and their radios.
The pair crossed the bridge into town, and encountered nobody in the darkness save a pair of primitives, who also didn’t notice them. They headed north, reasoning that the gang led by The Indian might be more reasonable than Those Punks, who had a reputation for brutality.
Cutting through a devastated residential zone, the tables turned on Maks and Wojciech as six men stepped out of the shadows. Even in the darkness, Maks could judge them to be punks. They were fanned out in a semi-circle.
The leader’s teeth were filed like a shark, and half his head was shaved. He brandished a handaxe. A sidekick accompanied him.
“Who might you two be? Where are you from?” the punk asked with a ferocious grin. Maks feigned very poor English, saying they were from the west, and spoke aside to Wojciech in Polish.
“You a couple of Ruskies?” the leader asked, confused.
Maks replied in broken English that they were “No Russians” – spitting on the ground – “We Poles.” He mimed running with his fingers. “We from prison camp.”
“Poles? Is that a gang?” The leader was perplexed. He turned to his sidekick, who muttered, “They’re not wearing suits. And they’re not Jarheads.”
Maks said “Poles, my country, POLAND!”. The leader shrugged; hadn’t heard of Poland apparently. They silently eyed each other.
The sharp-toothed punk was sizing them up, and their weapons. This was not supposed to be Punk territory; maybe they were on their own in a contested zone. He hoped that was the case anyway.
“You’ll have to pay a tax to pass.” The leader announced.
Maks grunted “Tax I know” and tossed him a bag of shotgun shells.
The shark gestured them to pass.
“Watch out for The Indian’s men,” he advised. “They’re dangerous”